Indigenous Women in Bolivia Empowered Through Taekwondo Self-Defense Training

El Alto, Bolivia – In a city known for its high rates of gender-based violence, Lidia Mayta found empowerment and resilience through the practice of taekwondo. After surviving a violent robbery attempt, Mayta made a vow to never feel helpless again. Three years later, she is now helping train other Indigenous women in Bolivia to defend themselves against the pervasive violence that plagues the country.

Mayta’s journey led her to the Warmi Power taekwondo studio in El Alto, Bolivia’s second city, where she not only learned self-defense techniques but also became part of the training team. Her dedication to empowering women, particularly Indigenous women, has been instrumental in providing them with the tools to combat gender-based violence prevalent in Bolivian society.

Violence against women remains a pressing issue in Bolivia, with government data showing that eight out of ten women and girls experience physical violence at least once in their lives. In response to this alarming statistic, Bolivians Laura Roca and Kimberly Nosa launched Warmi Power in 2015, aiming to equip women with taekwondo self-defense skills as a means of protection and empowerment.

Through their efforts, Roca and Nosa have impacted over 35,000 women nationwide, offering them not only physical tools but also a sense of courage and strength to stand up against their perpetrators. The classes, mostly attended by Indigenous women engaged in informal trade, provide a safe space for participants to learn, grow, and reclaim their sense of agency.

Women like Marcelina Quispe, inspired by a friend’s experience with domestic violence, have found solace and empowerment in the taekwondo classes. The community support and camaraderie within the group serve as a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience that women possess in the face of adversity.

Despite legislative efforts to combat gender-based violence, such as a specific law in Bolivia since 2013 to protect women from violence, challenges persist in effectively addressing and preventing such crimes. Critics argue that more resources and support are needed to tackle the root causes of gender-based violence and ensure the safety and well-being of women across the country.

As the taekwondo class in El Alto concludes, participants are reminded of their worth and strength through affirmations and encouraging gestures. The group dynamic and support system fostered within the training sessions serve as a beacon of hope and empowerment for women in Bolivia, instilling a sense of resilience and unity in the face of adversity.